Born in Catania in 1970.
Lives and works in Milan, Italy.
"Nervous Women", Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent (B)
"face to face", Neue Galerie Gladbeck, Gladbeck
"Stills", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"Ritratti", Corsoveneziaotto, Milano (I)
"Collector's Choice II", ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe
"Strange Object", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"VIAGGIO IN ITALIA", Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum
“Faster! Bigger! Better!”, ZKM Karlsruhe
Biennale di Roma (I)
"Auftakt", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
“Real Vision Reflex”, Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
VERNICE, Sentieri della giovane pittura italiana, curated by Francesco Bonami, Villa Manin, Passariano, Codroipo (UD)
“Schwarzweiß” aus Italien, Galerie Davide Di Maggio Mudimadue, Berlin
“Futuro italiano”, curated by Lorenzo Canova, Bruxelles (B)
“Ungenioingenuo", curated by G. Del Vecchio, Studio d'Arte Cannaviello, Milano
“Exempla, un percorso nella pittura”, Museo dell’Arredo Contemporaneo, Ravenna (I)
"Nuova Pittura Figurativa", Galerie A&O+Cannaviello, Berlin
"Il Furore dei Novanta", Kunsthaus Tacheles, Berlin
MAPP (Museo d’arte Paolo Pini)
"Sguardi a corte", Corte delle Giare, Parma (I)
"15° triennale internazionale d'arte sacra" city of Celano, L'Aquila, Castello Piccolomini (I)
"3° Convocatoria internacional de jovenas artistas",
Galerìa Luis Adelantado, Valencia, (E)
1999 “Aggiunte al Catalogo. Nuova pittura italiana negli spazi del museo”, Galleria d'Arte Moderna of Udine (I)
“NEOICONICA”, Studio d'Arte Cannaviello, Milano (I)
“TEMPO RIFLESSO”, Ex Ferramenta Todeschini, Faenza (I)
“MORBI'. Porto Insicuro”, Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona (I)
“Memorie Italiane”, Guang Dong Museum of Art, Er-Sha Island, Guangzhou, (VRC)
Participation in art fairs
Art Brussels (B)
Art Frankfurt (D)
Arte Fiera Bologna
By Thomas W. Kuhn
In around the year 1500, the aesthetic discussion between artists and philosophers was dominated by a dispute that would be become later known in art history books with the conceptual name "Paragone". Sculptors, painters and architects debated amongst themselves on which of the means of artistic expression was worthy of primacy over the others. While architects were magnanimously inclined to consider painting and sculpture in the sense of the global work of art, painters and sculptors disputed the specific ability of their own art forms to present a work of art as truthful to the eyes of the observer. No less than a personality such as Leonardo da Vinci eloquently expressed his esteemed opinion on the controversy, stating that he himself favoured painting over sculpture.
The 19th century made this debate even more timely thanks to the art of photography, which had only recently been discovered. At that point, painting was left standing alone to respond to the new means of artistic expression. It did not take long before countless portrait painters found themselves caught in a difficult situation - they were losing numerous assignments to photographic portrait takers and were frequently compelled to find a new way to earn a living. Many portrait painters complied with the trend and reinvented themselves into photographers specialized in portrait photography.
In this sense, painting, standing before the wide expressive possibility of sculpture and photography, had to prove its enormous ability to translate the expressive qualities of these arts into paintings. The late Gothic and the Renaissance developed an amazing illusionist ability in grisaille painting, which imitated sculptures and reliefs, and in the decoration of altars, churches and palaces, to create a fierce competition to sculptors, who well understood their ability to count on the esteem and prestige of the ancient art of sculpture, so important for the Renaissance. In the 19th century, realism and naturalism profited from the work of photographers, and the innovative and multifaceted painting of the classic modern more and more frequently made recourse to the notion that photography would have first and foremost relieved painting from the burden of reproducing an "objective" reality, so that this art could aim straight for the depths and heart of abstraction.
With the chronologically contemporary phenomenon underway of the decline of the academic tradition, also becoming obsolete was the concept that the "technical" means of reproducing reality par excellence was represented not only by the recently invented art of photography but also by painting. In the latter half of the 20th century, the corresponding reaction was quick to appear, as a succession of painters reignited the debate against photography as a valid means of expression. While photography and filmmaking managed to make their way into museums and galleries, it was photorealism and its countless exponents prevalently from the United States that came briefly into vogue. In the meantime, the concept of photorealism was largely rehabilitated, thanks largely to the movement's most significant painters, Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter.
Davide La Rocca is part of this tradition. He questioned, in the way that most distinguishes him, the possibilities of painting in the dialogue with the techniques of photographic, electronic, and digital imagery. La Rocca lends a tangible quality to images that were in and of themselves intangible in paintings and are wholly or partially in relief thanks to his use of colour, and in the illumination of the exhibition hall, display an added effect. An essential feature in his paintings is the composition made up of systematically arranged dots; in their precision, the works resemble those by Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. The proximity to divisionism is clear in the technical procedures that La Rocca uses to transfer photographs to painting, freeze frames taken from films or videos or photo collages. A part of the models for his paintings is transferred onto the computer using special software and can thus be transformed from colour image to a grayscale image. These dots in the bitmap were transferred to the canvas using a long and complex process that could oftentimes take weeks to complete. Viewed up close, the painting seems abstract since the individual dots in the image are what they seem, namely, dots in an image. But viewed from a certain distance, the work of art renders that specific effect, recognized since the period of divisionism but also due to the effect of the television or computer screen, according to which the points, in the perceptive process of the eyes and brain, begin to take the shape of an image.
This procedure corresponds structurally to the figurative choice of La Rocca, in the pieces where he draws inspiration for his work on freeze frames captured from films and videos. La Rocca interrupts the continuous flow of the images and pauses to investigate each individual image and evaluate its usability, to the point where the film is practically reduced to a bitmap. With his most recent works executed using this style, such as "Isabelle BN" and "Isabelle RGB" from 2007, La Rocca achieves new possibilities with this technique. Unlike the "Real Vision Reflex" series of paintings, whose central theme was the film by David Cronenberg, "eXistenZ" in which the artist worked with a system of twenty levels of grayscale, "Isabelle BN" is a synthesis of white dots on a black background. In "Isabelle RGB", La Rocca creates a bitmap in the colours of red, green and blue, the primary colours in the chromatic synthesis used in computer screens. Looking at the work, one almost has the impression of standing too close to an old-fashioned television screen with a cathode ray tube with perforated metal sheet, which also presents specific optical artifacts that build regular structures and are not found in the starting means.
The paintings based on freeze frames taken from films predominantly feature the theme of female stars of Hollywood, especially Eva Green, followed by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. After isolating them from the context of the film, they are transformed in La Rocca's paintings into portraits of roles, in variations between head and shoulders, full bust and head portraits, with different positioning of the head at the time of the transition from the front-facing portrait to the profile. As icons of our times, La Rocca's protagonists bring modernity to an image of femininity that can be traced back to the biblical first woman on earth, Eve.
Indeed, if we examine the motifs used in another group of paintings, La Rocca seems to turn to allegorical and symbolic images with mythological proportions. "Stanza della Zebra" and "Il Guardiano", both dating to 2006, display compositions with surreal effects that remind of Federico Fellini, images that La Rocca has united with the computer - from the perspective of the composition - through the use of various photographs. "Il Guardiano" shows a member of the Papal Swiss Guard of the Vatican, standing in water to his knees, opposite a platform sprouting wing on which stands a rhinoceros. Crouched atop the beast are two small children. On the right of the painting is a naked man standing on one leg with both arms raised in a somewhat pathetic stance. The entire composition appears distorted and warped, as if the spectator were viewing it on a screen from the diagonal. "Stanza della Zebra" turns its attention to a room that is laid out like the celebrated octagon Tribune Room of the Uffizi Gallery, known at one time as the place where the Venus de' Medici was displayed, the personification of the ideal female beauty before the rediscovery of the Venus de Milo. In the vision by La Rocca, the room is flooded with water but this time, there are two Papal Swiss Guards flanking each side of a central pedestal. The motif of the wing on the platform is repeated in this painting - this time, the wing serves as a pedestal for a zebra. Scattered on all the walls are paintings by Caravaggio, which in reality are located in other places. Both of these two works by La Rocca feature references to a Musée Imaginaire in the style of André Malraux, in the presence of a stage of the television galas and the acrobatic aspect of the circus and variety shows. An even more complex painting is entitled "Ultra Darwin" which brings together the motifs of both paintings and confirms the reference to the Venus de' Medici, in this case interpreted as Eve, who tempts seductively to transgression with the apple of conscience.
The "Versatore" series displays situations that are closer to reality but no less rich in symbolism. These works portray children crouched inside a square box holding receptacles with which they draw water and pour it back into the pond before them. The imagery brings to mind a young Narcissus, unconsciously immersed in self-love, painted by Caravaggio and exhibited at the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome. This circular act of self-reflection corresponds to the apparently senseless act of the children in drawing water from the pond and then pouring it back into the source. Throughout the game, the surface of the water ripples and the reflection of the faces of the children in the water remains blurred, thus protecting the children from the risk of Narcissism, which would become perilous as soon as the water in the pond stills. The opposition of an idyllic scene over which there is a foreshadowing of threat is brought to its apex in the works, ”Ora X” and “Orizzonte all'ora” from 2005, which feature children as protagonists again. This time the children float on inflatable rafts on the sea in the foreground, while in the background, threatening mushroom clouds of atomic bomb explosions levitate upward in the sky.
Davide La Rocca describes his paintings with the definition "strange objects", which is true for both dimensions of his paintings - for the technical methods of its execution and for the choice and composition of its motifs. Their aspect is necessarily not very familiar, since the technical methods are still largely new and have not yet - up to this point - received such a wide acceptance in the world of painting to be able to define "known and familiar" objects. His works are still "bizarre" however, partly because at first sight, what appears to be a "simple" technical transposition of a technical image is actually deeply rooted in the depths of the history of painting, in which painters since the Renaissance have used the most recent discoveries of science - in the form of optical "equipment" and construction - to represent a figurative reality. Symbolic of this tradition of the expansion of the visible is the image of the moon by La Rocca, executed in 2007. The crescent moon illuminated during the day reminds us that the tools of astronomy are what have made the detailed realm of the satellites of the Earth visible to us. In this work, La Rocca, in his bitmap technique related to the gradual disappearance into increasingly lower levels generated by the computer, pushes to the edge of the possible with the brush. After reaching this boundary, researchers and artists become just one thing - discoverers.